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Saeima supports returning Jewish properties in first reading

The Latvian parliament supported in principle the bill about the restitution of several properties that belonged to the Latvian Jewish organizations before World War II, BNS reported on Thursday.

Parliament foreign committee head Ojārs Ēriks Kalniņš, representing the ruling Unity party, said that it is necessary to correct this historical injustice that has been committed by the Nazist and Communist regimes.

"It will demonstrate a political and good will gesture," said Kalnins, calling on the parliament to support the bill on restitution.

Meanwhile, ruling National Alliance's lawmaker Aleksandrs Kiršteins challenged the debaters to name any ethnic group in Latvia and Europe that has not suffered in World War II. He called not to support the bill.

The bill was supported by the Saeima Foreign Affairs Committee earlier.

In January this year the Latvian parliament decided to start reviewing the proposal for return of five properties that used to belong to Latvia's Jewish community before World War II to the Riga Jewish Community.

Three of these properties are situated in Rīga, one in Latvia's seaside town of Jūrmala, and one in Kandava, a town in western Latvia. They are to be returned to the Latvian Council of Jewish Communities.

MPs have until October 8 to come up with suggestions for the second reading of the bill.

The ruling coalition parties had been postponing decisions on this matter for many years until Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs’ visit to the US.

Since then, while Unity and the Greens and Farmers Union back the restitution proposal for the five properties, the National Alliance has maintained a more reserved position, having sacrificed a Justice Minister in a previous Cabinet (Gaidis Bērziņš) ostensibly over the issue.

The Jewish diaspora has claims against a total of 270 properties. 

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